What is Buffy Studies?

Mary McMahon

Buffy Studies, is an academic field focused on the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, along with the spinoff Angel and a variety of other related materials, including everything from tarot decks to comic books. Buffy Studies is generally considered within the greater classification of cultural studies, with many academics placing it further within the study of pop culture specifically. While the idea of “Buffy Studies” might seem laughable, it is in fact taken very seriously, albeit by a very small group within the academic community, and the field even has its own scholarly journals, like Slayage and Watcher Junior for undergraduates.

Buffy studies may include a look at friendships between women, as well as platonic relationships with the opposite sex.
Buffy studies may include a look at friendships between women, as well as platonic relationships with the opposite sex.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran from 1997 to 2003, with 144 episodes produced in total, providing a wealth of material for academic study and analysis. In addition to the television show itself, a vast wealth of Buffy-related material has been produced, providing further fruit for analysis of the so-called “Buffyverse,” the collective material which comprises the fictional universe in which the series is set. Many people feel that while the show was meant to be enjoyable and fun, it also provided a great deal of food for thought for viewers, touching on issues like feminism, belief in higher powers, sexuality, gender, family, and friendships. All of these issues have provided avenues of study for people in the field of Buffy Studies.

Feminist studies are widely accepted and welcomed at most major universities.
Feminist studies are widely accepted and welcomed at most major universities.

Academics can approach Buffy Studies from a wide variety of academic fields, including psychology, philosophy, anthropology, musicology, linguistics, film studies, existentialism, narratology, and theology. Issues like gender, family dynamics, religion, magic, and mythology are also heavily studied in the academic world, so some academics find that their interests dovetail neatly with the field of Buffy Studies. As is the case in other niche academic fields, some academics have specifically staked, so to speak, a claim on a specific aspect of Buffy Studies, ranging from the use of language on the show to the show's influence on American culture.

People who work in Buffy Studies can submit work for publication, attend academic conferences, and lead university and college classes which focus on various aspects of the field. The inclusion of classes on Buffy and on pop culture in general in universities has been criticized by some people, who feel that such classes are of questionable academic value. However, given the wealth of academic scholarship behind the study of pop culture, these arguments could be viewed as a bit stodgy; after all, formerly marginal academic fields like feminist studies are now widely accepted and welcomed at most major universities.

You may also hear Buffy Studies referred to as Buffyology, although many academics shy away from this term. Most people who work in Buffy Studies do so on the graduate level, with undergraduate degrees in cultural studies, although some undergraduates may choose to get a head start on the field while working towards degrees in cultural studies.

Tarot cards are typically part of Buffy Studies.
Tarot cards are typically part of Buffy Studies.

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Discussion Comments


I've never met anyone who actually enrolled in those Buffy studies classes, but I've heard of other electives that sound just as silly at first. I've had serious discussions about other televisions series in the past, like the Andy Griffith Show's connection with Christian issues. I can see where Buffy the Vampire Slayer brings up similar moral and ethical issues, like social acceptance of alternative sexuality and female empowerment.

I don't know if I would be wiling to pay for the classes out of pocket, but if I were a college student these days and I needed to take some elective courses to complete my degree, I would probably sign up for something like this.


Hearing stories about college electives like Buffy studies used to bother me, but now that I've taken a few college classes myself, I can see where they serve a useful purpose. The subject matter itself may sound a little lightweight, but the way the instructor gets at the underlying themes and issues can be very interesting. I wasn't the biggest Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan when it ran as a series, but I wouldn't mind watching it again as part of a larger discussion.

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